‘Always read your lease:’ tips, information provided at Manhattan Renter’s Forum

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The Renter's Housing Forum had a four-person panel giving community members insight into the tenant and landlord relationships in Manhattan. From left to right, Hannah Heatherman (student renter), Cydney Alexis (faculty renter), Phil Anderson (landlord) and Brice Ebert (landlord). (Luis Villarreal-Reyes | Collegian Media Group)

For many at Kansas State, off-campus housing is an ongoing topic.

Presenters at the Manhattan Renter’s Forum on Tuesday evening encouraged students — and all renters in Manhattan — to know their rights as tenants and their landlord’s rights as well.

Teresa Baker, tenant landlord and Helping Ourselves to Prosper Economically program manager for Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc., was the first speaker at the forum. Baker told renters to “always” read their lease.

She described the contents of the Kansas Residential Landlord & Tenant Act. For example, a landlord does not have to supply an air conditioning system, but if they decide to, they are required to maintain it.

“They don’t have to supply appliances, so, whenever you go look for a rental, make sure that everything is there,” Baker said. “Make sure it’s covered in the lease, that it’s supplied.”

It is also up to the landlord to maintain systems such as electrical, plumbing and sanitary. They must also provide the means for adequate heat and running water.

“They don’t have to pay for trash removal, but they have to make sure that it’s available in your area,” Baker said.

Before the forum took place, a survey on K-State Today invited all K-State students, faculty and staff who rent in Manhattan to answer questions on renting.

Justin Watkins, Student Governing Association Government Relations Committee chair and sophomore in political science, presented the survey results. The survey had 143 respondents, 60 of which were students. Of the respondents, 56 percent said they selected their property through a rental unit website.

“Another interesting thing was that people really care about price and the overall condition of the unit as opposed to location,” Watkins said.

He also said the vast majority of renters don’t know Manhattan has a voluntary rental inspection program.

Manhattan assistant city manager Dennis Marstall also sent out a survey to landlords. He said one of the key takeaways from the survey was that landlords are on social media, and that it is a good place to build the tenant-landlord relationship.

Of the 129 respondents, 48 answered the question “What changes could be made to the City’s Housing Code that would improve the overall quality of rental housing in the community?”

Some answers to this question, according to Marstall, include a better enforcement of codes to force landlords to fix rundown apartments and also enhancing better communication with landlords.

The forum concluded with a panel of renters and landlords. Hannah Heatherman, speaker of the student senate and senior in finance, sat on the panel as a student renter.

From her own experience, she said college students typically find housing with a Google search. She said taking the time necessary to look into city resources and landlords may be more difficult.

“I don’t think a lot of people take the time,” Heatherman said.

Phil Anderson, who has been a rental property owner since 1981, was another panelist. He currently runs Anderson Bed and Breakfast on Fairchild Avenue.

He said there’s a simple way for students to solve their problems when it comes to renting.

“If the student body did vote, the student body can control the city of Manhattan,” he said.

Zach Perez, sophomore in journalism and mass communications, is the student director of off-campus housing and attended the forum.

“I would absolutely love it if I could either talk or write something that is shown to students,” Perez said. “In my experience, I have noticed a lot of times, with students at least, no one necessarily comes looking for answers until their rights have been violated.”

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I'm Pete Loganbill and I'm the News Editor for the Collegian and host of the Collegian Kultivate podcast! I spent two years at Johnson County Community College, and I am now a senior in Public Relations at K-State. I believe constant communication leads to progress, no matter how difficult a comment may be for me or anyone to hear. Contact me at ploganbill@kstatecollegian.com.